Ncwala

Ncwala

December or January; actual date determined by astrologers
The most sacred of the national ceremonies of the independent kingdom of Swaziland, the Ncwala is the "first fruits festival." Held at the Royal Kraal (residence) at Ludzidzini outside the capital of Mbabane, it is a six-day ritualized festival of song, dance, folklore, and martial display, focusing on the king as the source of fertility and the symbol of power and unity.
In what is known as the "little iNcwala," representatives from the Bemanti people, having journeyed to the shores of the Indian Ocean in the neighboring country of Mozambique to gather foam from the water, return to the Kraal and the celebrating begins. Then, unmarried young men go out to the countryside to collect branches of the lusekwane shrub (a kind of acacia) which will be used in the bonfire at the end of the festival.
During the main ceremony, warriors dance and chant to persuade the king (who has secluded himself) to return to his people. He finally appears wearing a black-plumed headdress, dances the king's dance and eats part of a pumpkin, paving the way for all to enjoy the harvest. On the last day people feed a bonfire with bedding and other items from the old year, a cleansing for a fresh start to the new agricultural year.
CONTACTS:
Swaziland Ministry of Tourism
Income Tax Bldg., 2nd Fl.
P.O. Box 2652
Mbabane, Swaziland
268-404-4556; fax: 268-404-5415
www.gov.sz
SOURCES:
BkHolWrld-1986, Dec 22
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 546